Monday, October 7, 2013

german for beginners
So. Seeing as I'm now two months into my exchange (today! happy month-i-versary to me!), I figured I should know everything about this language and how to become completely fluent within a matter of weeks.
Okay, maybe not. But anyway, I figured that I should post a little bit about what German is like for English speakers. Or maybe a lot bit, because my GOODNESS is German hard.


A Short Lesson on the German Language:
To start with, there are a lot of sounds we don't really have in English. This includes the Z, the W, the CH, and all the letters with umlauts: Ä Ö and Ü. They're complicated to pronounce, but don't worry, you'll get them. Hopefully.
The key is mostly to remember that it's not spoken like English. This may seem obvious, but it really isn't, and it's hard to remember. For example, a sentence in German:
"Hallo. Ich heisse Hannah, und ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen."
This roughly sounds like "normal greeting. (soundthatwedon'thaveinenglish) (verb, which you need to remember the correct ending to, no matter if they sound the same to you) (your name, which you should be able to pronounce), ("u" but not a hard u, a u more in the back of your throat) (soundthatwedon'thaveinenglishagain) (verb) (article that I think is wrong because my German grammar sucks) (anothersoundthatwedon''s pronounced differently in Swiss German than in High German) (noun that must be capitalized in writing, because all nouns are capitalized) (another verb)."
Oh yes, the verb comes at the very end of a sentence if it's being used with another verb OR if it's part of a dependent clause. You'll have to learn that later in German grammar, and boy will that be tricky. (I'm still not absolutely sure any of this is right.) But meanwhile, you've learned the pronunciation of a few basic words. Good for you!
Next, some vocabulary. Note that there are articles before each word to tell you their "gender".
die Frau (the woman)
der Mann (the man)
das Mädchen (the girl)

"die" is feminine, "der" is masculine, and "das" is neutral. In this case, it happens to nicely match up with the gender of the meaning of the word... woman and man. But take a look at the third example and you'll realize it's not, actually, that simple. Why are girls without a gender? I have no idea.
[More random examples of der, die, and das: das Kleid (the dress), der Apfel (the apple), die Katze (the cat), die Rübe (the turnip), die Krankheit (the sickness), das Buch (the book), and das Wort (the word).]
If you haven't figured it out already, the point is that the gender of the word is really not connected to the gender or the meaning. Or the spelling. Or the type of thing it means. In fact, the gender of the word doesn't actually have much rhyme or reason behind it. It just... is there. Plus, you have to learn the plurals with the original noun, and there are about 7 different variations for what a plural can look like. This means that you must frantically attempt to memorize everything.
To make things more complicated (this is German. Why would anything want to be simple?), there are four different forms of these articles: Dativ, Genitiv, Nominativ, and Akkusativ. This depends on whether the object being spoken of is doing something, being something, having something done to it, etc. For example, in German accusative form, der turns to den and the others stay the same--but in German dative form, the masculine der and neutral das turn to dem and the feminine die turns to der--which isn't to be confused with the "der" in nominative, which means masculine, not feminine.
Oh, and all the adjectives continue to change with these articles. So if a cat (die Katze) was blue, it'd be "eine blaue Katze" but if a book (das Buch) was blue, it'd be "ein blaues Buch" and if an apple (der Apfel) was blue, it'd be "ein blauer Apfel". At least, I think that's right.

Confused yet? And we haven't even addressed the verbs and question forms!

No wonder Germans are supposed to sound angry. I'd be too, if I had to learn all that. ;)

(side note: I don't actually find German that bad, although I suppose that the way I've described it does sound rather impossible, doesn't it? And I haven't even described half of it... That said, German is a really lovely language to learn. I promise. And hopefully I will be fluent at the end of this year.)


p.s. guess what? Swiss German is even harder!!!! :)


  1. Much of what you write sounds correct to me, but as I said before, your German has surpassed mine at this point.

    Mark Twain wrote in his essay on the German language that he once overheard a student say he'd rather decline two German beers than one German adjective.

    German is lovely! It's tough for most Americans to believe though, cause we mostly only hear German spoken in films with Nazis (who are always angry), which is sad.

    Still jealous, by the way! But still excited, and it sounds like you are making progress in your language studies, so "sehr gut!"


  2. Hilarious! (but I do get your frustration) Now I understand why German speakers tend to do quite well with English! They must find it incredibly simplistic.
    Mrs. Myhre


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